KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alex Smith has seen the young quarterbacks walking through the doors of the Chiefs’ facility the last few weeks, each wanting nothing more than to one day take his job.
He’s not worried about it in the least.
The veteran quarterback is firmly entrenched as the starter in Kansas City, despite constant debate over whether he can lead his team to the Super Bowl. General manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid are firmly in his corner, and ultimately those voices are the only ones that matter.
But even Smith acknowledged this week that he’s entering the final phase of his career, and that begs the question: Will the Chiefs finally draft a quarterback in the first round?
“We’ve drafted quarterbacks just about every year that he’s been here,” Reid said. “Quarterbacks coming through the door, I don’t think that’s a big thing to him. He understands how this thing works. I think he has a lot of confidence in his ability, as do we. That’s not where his mind is.”
Yet it’s ultimately where Dorsey and Reid have their minds.
Yes, they’ve drafted quarterbacks since Smith has been under center, but they were fifth-round picks Aaron Murray and Kevin Hogan, and neither remains on the roster. Their top selections were usually spent on more pressing needs, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, rather than on someone who might not get on the field unless Smith was to get hurt.
But the soon-to-be 33-year-old is a free agent after 2018, and if he regresses at all, it would be relatively inexpensive to cut him after the upcoming season. And that could make it an opportune time for Dorsey and Reid to finally use a first- or second-round selection on an heir apparent.
“I think you get into the draft and anything is possible,” Reid acknowledged last week. “Anything is possible. But I can’t tell you that’s our No. 1 thing.”
There are indications it’s high on the list, though.
Along with Smith’s status, the Chiefs have met with just about every QB prospect in the draft, either at the NFL scouting combine or their practice facility. They run the gamut from two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson of Clemson and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, both expected to be among the first QBs selected this week, to projects such as Pitt’s Nathan Peterman and Josh Dobbs of Tennessee.
The Chiefs also have just three QBs on the roster, and Reid prefers four for training camp.
“I attack every position, every year, the same exact way regardless of if it is a quarterback, punter, linebacker, wide receiver, long snapper,” Dorsey said. “I do my diligence on everyone, and that’s why we stack those boards at the right positions.”
There’s also the fact that Kansas City has 10 selections in the draft. With few holes to fill, it is unlikely 10 rookies could find their way onto the 53-man roster.
That means the Chiefs could do a lot of dealing during the three-day draft, perhaps packaging a few picks together to jump up and take a quarterback. As it stands, their first choice would not come until 27th overall, and that may not be early enough for the first tier of prospects.
“Are we going to see if we can trade up and get some stuff? Are we going to see if we can trade back and get more? We’re always going to do our due diligence,” Dorsey said. “We have to do that, and I think that’s what good clubs do. You have to see every option available before you make that pick.”
There are certainly plenty of fans who want the Chiefs to nab a quarterback early. They haven’t picked one in the first two rounds since the forgettable Matt Blundin in 1992, and the last to go in the first round was the equally forgettable Todd Blackledge in 1983.
As for Smith, he’s unperturbed by youngsters angling for his job.
“It’s no different than any year,” he said. “And to be honest, it’s a pretty open conversation. We talk about the QBs — `Who do you like?’ `How is this guy?’ `How is that guy?’
“But this is a personnel decision, and they’re going to make that decision out of our hands,” Smith said. “So any anxiety you’re going to have over it is pointless, to be honest. And it’s normal every year. They bring guys in every single year. This is the NFL. You play long enough, it’s going to happen.”